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Sen. Ted Stevens

Problems Mount in Sen. Ted Stevens Trial

October 07, 2008 02:00 PM
by Lindsey Chapman

Accusations of witness manipulation and other problems have renewed the defense's pursuit of a mistrial declaration in the corruption case against Sen. Ted Stevens.

How the Stevens Trial is Progressing

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Attorneys have made a second attempt to have a mistrial declared in Sen. Ted Stevens's corruption case. They are accusing prosecutors of manipulating Bill Allen, a key witness in the trial, to weaken the defense's case. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the prosecution said, "Contrary to all of the theatrics and hyperbole from the defense, no one has attempted to hide evidence or hold back any discoverable item."

Reports have also surfaced that Bill Allen's attorney may have been coaching him on the witness stand using hand signals. "It's clear he was signaling an answer to the witness," Judge Emmett Sullivan said in an ABC News article. Sullivan asked Allen's attorney, "Why shouldn't I hold you in contempt of court right now?" Joseph Bottini, an assistant U.S. attorney from Alaska, said he had known Allen's attorney, Robert Bundy, for a long time "and would be surprised the communication was intentional," according to ABC News.

As for Bundy, he has denied making signals to Allen during his testimony.

Stevens's Trial Judge Upset over Witness Handling, Testimony

After prosecutors sent home a key witness in the trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in September, the Washington Post said Judge Emmet Sullivan looked “livid.” He wasn’t told that Robert Williams, a former employee of Veco Corp., was going home. “Why wasn’t I consulted? I’m peeved now. It’s a federal subpoena to appear in my court,” Sullivan stated.

Then on Oct. 2, Judge Sullivan threatened to throw out the case upon learning that prosecutors had revealed last-minute evidence which could clear Stevens of guilt. The current issue is about an FBI interview with the prosecution's chief witness, oilman Bill Allen. The government gave Stevens’s lawyers a redacted portion of the interview, but recently admitted that they had concealed parts of the interview that they shouldn’t have.

Defense lawyer Brendan V. Sullivan said the newly revealed material contains contradictions in testimony from Allen. By law, material that could help a defendant in a trial must be turned over.

“I don’t know how to fully explain it. It was just a mistake,” prosecutor Brenda Morris said. “I am standing here as humbly as I know how. (But) I again will submit to you there is no harm.”

“When the United States of America says, ‘This is defendant’s lucky day because we complied with the judge’s order,’ that is a sad commentary,” Sullivan said in a Los Angeles Times article.

Background: The charges against Stevens; evidence delays

Stevens is accused of failing to report more than $250,000 of “gifts and benefits” from various friends and “favor-seekers,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

One of those “favor-seekers” is the former chairman of the oil-field services company Veco Corp., Bill Allen. He’s pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators and will be a witness against Stevens.

Before the trial started in September, Stevens's attorneys were concerned about a delay in examining evidence against him. They wanted anything favorable for Stevens, or damaging to witnesses like Allen, turned over before the trial. They cited a past sexual abuse case against Allen, and said it could lessen his credibility. Allen also experienced a brain injury during a motorcycle accident years ago, and Stevens’s attorneys say that, “To date, the government has not disclosed any documents or other information relating to this injury that might allow the defense to determine what impact, if any, the injury may have had on Allen’s ability to recall and perceive the events at issue in this case.”

Stevens pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in Washington, D.C., and also made it clear that he does not want his indictment to get in the way of his re-election campaign. Corruption cases tend to take years, but prosecutors and the judge said they had no problem with moving the case along quickly.

On Sept. 10, a federal judge denied requests to dismiss the case against Stevens. The trial, which started with jury selection on Sept. 22, is expected to last approximately one month.

Related Topic: The Palin/Stevens Relationship

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